New cleanup agency for spills on land

Province says PRO could coordinate, respond to environmental emergencies from trains, trucks and pipelines

An oiled duck is handled by responders following the spill of bunker fuel oil from a freighter off Vancouver in April.

The province will require industry to pay for a new organization to quickly deploy trained and equipped responders to deal with a spill of oil or any other hazardous substance on land.

New legislation will come next spring and the new Preparedness and Response Organization (PRO) is to be in place by 2017 to counter a variety of land-based spills, including train derailments, tanker truck crashes and pipeline failures that release petroleum or other chemicals.

Environment Minister Mary Polak predicted it will significantly improve B.C.’s readiness to coordinate and, if necessary, lead the response to a spill on land without delays to determine who is responsible.

Companies will have to join the new response organization if the risk they pose – based on the volume and toxicity of the cargo they ship – exceeds a certain risk threshold that is yet to be determined.

The spiller will remain responsible for response and cleanup costs, but if its efforts are failing the province would be able to call the PRO in to take over.

Polak likened the new agency’s role to that of the Western Canada Marine Response Corp., the non-profit industry-funded group that responds to marine spills.

“That’s the kind of idea that we are looking at so you have one body that can be contacted, can be immediately put into place, taking action even before we’ve identified who’s responsible for a spill,” she said.

Polak said the aim is to fill gaps in readiness, not to duplicate existing industry efforts.

While the federal government has jurisdiction over problems along a pipeline right-of-way, Polak said a spill could cause environmental damage over a wider area.

“If one imagines the damage that a pipeline spill could potentially do, much of that would then be potentially our responsibility outside of that pipeline right of way.”

First Nations and other local communities are expected to play significant roles in the new system.

The B.C. SPCA is also involved in the planning work to ensure international best practices in caring for oiled animals, said chief scientific officer Dr. Sara Dubois.

The federal government has jurisdiction over spills at sea.

But the province says the new land-based spill response system will also be ready to pitch in on a marine spill by helping coordinate the response and quickly minimizing shoreline impacts, if necessary.

Polak said a lack of good coordination between agencies was one of the problems that arose in the Marathassa fuel oil spill in English Bay in April, and reiterated the need for Ottawa to bolster marine response preparedness.

“What we have now is outdated,” she said. “The province is not prepared for a major spill.”

Premier Christy Clark had previously said if Ottawa can’t do better on marine response it should relinquish authority to B.C.

World-leading spill response capabilities on land and at sea are among the province’s preconditions for agreeing to new heavy oil pipelines.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jocelyn’s Jottings: Scared by my latest hydro bill

Luckily I have set up an equal payment plan with BC Hydro… Continue reading

Snow, snow and snow for Revelstoke

The white stuff will continue to fall into next week

Revelstoke already double last year’s snowfall

The city is just below halfway to the snowiest winter on record

Have your say on what it takes raising toddlers in Revelstoke

The study started collecting data last summer and is expected to continue until at least May

Canada to bolster screening of central China passengers for virus at 3 airports

Additional measures will include messaging on arrivals screens in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

B.C. landlord sentenced to two years in jail for torching his own rental property

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

B.C. town spends $14.14 per resident for snow removal in one month

Costs of snow removal to the Town of Princeton skyrocketed in December.… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Photo reminds Salmon Arm resident of connection to former drama teacher Justin Trudeau

Prime minister remembered as being as a funny, larger-than-life person

Province says it is monitoring AIM’s road maintenance

The provincial transportation ministry is working closely with new road contractor AIM,… Continue reading

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Most Read